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How should city-level leaders manage a portfolio of schools? The first thing they should do is take stock of the city’s supply of public schools. A new report from IFF, a nonprofit community development financial institution, provides a helpful look at Cleveland’s public schools, both district and charter. In an effort to uncover those with the highest need for quality seats, the analysis slices the city into thirty neighborhoods based on several variables: schools’ academic performance, facility utilization and physical condition, and commuting patterns. The facility analyses are the major contribution of this work, principally the schools’ utilization rates—the ratio of student enrollment to the physical capacity of the building. The utilization rates are needed to determine the actual number of available high-quality seats. The analysts obtained building-capacity statistics through the district; they estimated charter capacity by using the schools’ highest enrollment point (perhaps underreporting charters’ capacity—especially for new schools). Happily, the study reports that Cleveland’s highly rated K–8 schools are at 90 percent capacity. Yet it is less satisfying to learn that its highest-rated high schools are at only 68 percent capacity (the report does not suggest any reasons why). Meanwhile, most of the city’s poorly rated schools...

  1. Efforts are underway to expand Ohio’s College Credit Plus program – providing easier and more widely-available access to courses for high-school students who are ready for the rigor of college work. However, it’s that “ready for the rigor” part that’s causing some trouble with expansion efforts. (Columbus Dispatch, 4/27/15)
     
  2. There are parts of central Ohio where residents live in Columbus, send their kids to an assigned school in one suburb, get their trashed picked up by a second suburb, and get mail delivered from a third suburb. The genesis of this weirdness was rapid annexation of the city of Columbus back in the 1970’s and – school-assignment-and-funding-wise – resulted in something called the Win-Win Agreement in 1986. You can check out this concise Dispatch editorial for a potted history, as well as the editorial board’s take on how the state legislature absolutely cannot mess with the Win-Win Agreement without a lot more careful thought and discussion, no matter if at least one of those “wins” isn’t so winning anymore. (Columbus Dispatch, 4/27/15)
     
  3. Speaking of editorials, the Beacon-Journal had a lulu on Friday. In it, they gave a detailed accounting of how open enrollment works in
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This is the second in a series of Eduwatch 2016 posts that will chronicle presidential candidates’ stances on today’s biggest education issues. Last week’s inaugural post revealed Hillary Clinton’s views on everything from Common Core to charter schools. Next up is the junior senator from the Sunshine State, Marco Rubio.

Rubio’s been active in his role as a legislator, especially when it comes to school choice. In 2013, for example, he introduced the Educational Opportunities Act—a bill designed to support choice through tax credits—and co-sponsored a bill that would allow billions of Title I dollars to follow kids to whichever school they attend. But those are just pieces of senatorial legislation, and unsuccessful ones at that. Rubio’s dreaming bigger; he wants to jump from lawmaker to leader of the free world, which means a whole lot of talking between now and November 2016. So let’s see what he’s had to say about education:

1. The Department of Education: “If I was president of the United States, I would not have a Department of Education, perhaps at all….We don’t need...

When the history of this era’s urban-education reform movement is written, four big policy innovations are sure to get attention: the nation’s first voucher program, first charter law, first mayor-controlled charter authorizer, and first “extraordinary authority” unit (the RSD).

The people mostly responsible for these have two important things in common.

First, unless you’re an old hand in this business, you may not know of them.

Second—Polly Williams, Ember Reichgott Junge, Teresa Lubbers, Leslie Jacobs—they’re all women.

Unfortunately, those two facts are probably related.

Much has been written recently about the social forces pushing women below the radar in professional settings. In an excellent NYT piece, “Speaking While Female,” Sheryl Sandberg (Lean In) and Adam Grant (a Wharton professor) argue that “speaking up” at work generally helps men but not women.

“When a woman speaks in a professional setting,” they write, “she walks a tightrope. Either she’s barely heard or she’s...

Since its passage in 1974, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) has struck a careful and reasonable balance between the privacy of students and families and the need for timely and accurate information on the state of U.S. schools and school systems. But a provision in the FERPA overhaul “discussion draft” currently being circulated by Republican John Kline and Democrat Robert Scott threatens to upset this balance by giving parents the right to “opt out” of data-sharing agreements with “organizations conducting studies for, or on behalf of, educational agencies or institutions,” which are currently exempt from FERPA’s general prohibition on the sharing of personally identifiable information.

As written, this provision would do serious harm to efforts to evaluate and study existing education programs, because its widespread use would degrade the quality of the data on which many evaluations and studies are based. This would be a huge problem, especially if there were significant differences between students whose families chose to opt out and the broader student population (which there almost certainly would be). Such differences could (and likely would) bias the results of future studies that rely on education data, especially those seeking to understand the...

If you count Democrat Lincoln Chafee, five hopefuls have now declared their candidacy for the 2016 presidential election. The forthcoming nineteen months promise to bring scandals, flip-flops, attack ads, and a whole bunch of memes. So in anticipation of all that fun, I welcome you to Eduwatch 2016, Fordham's coverage of the race as it pertains to education. To start things off, let’s see where the candidates stand on today's biggest issues by looking at what they’ve said in the past.

As each contender throws his or her hat in the ring, I’ll publish a collection of their quotes about education. Some will be recent—but if a candidate hasn’t said anything about an issue in eight years, well, they may be a little more dated. But that has its uses, too; silence can speak volumes.

So without further ado, let’s start with the biggest name in the race: Hillary Rodham Clinton. Earlier this month, Clinton held a sixty-minute education roundtable at which she spoke with a handful of educators and students at an Iowa community college. Due to the format, there wasn’t a...

The Brookings Institution has come to its senses and found a splendid way to retain Russ Whitehurst on its senior research team. Having cut my own policy-research teeth at Brookings (back in the late Middle Ages), I was doubly dismayed—and said so—when I read a few weeks back that they were seeking a replacement to head the Brown Center, which Russ has led with huge distinction and productivity these past six years. What a terrible move it would have been to let him leave. Well, after much clanking of gears, he's not leaving after all. He's switching from one Brookings "department" to another, and will henceforth be a force to be reckoned with in their highly regarded Center on Children and Families, located within the Institution’s "economic studies" section. The education research and policy world benefits hugely from Whitehurst's continuation at Brookings. Hurrah for this happy outcome for all concerned (except the diminished Brown Center).

  • A few weeks ago, the Gadfly highlighted the work of the New York Times, which ran a long and deeply reported (some would say tendentious) examination of Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy charter network. The piece vividly detailed the disputes circulating around the schools and led Moskowitz to issue an impassioned response to her employees. More recently, the paper has published testimonials from parents of Success Academy pupils, including both those distraught by the organization’s strict behavioral controls and those elated with their children’s improved grades and newfound zest for learning. The experiences they depict should already be familiar to those who have followed the story—Peerless school culture! Crushing academic expectations! Scary-good test scores! Just-plain-scary disciplinary practices!—but it’s worth celebrating the fact that these parents can choose to either stick with the program or look for a better fit for their kids. The first two lines of one account, from a Manhattan father, are particularly cheering: “I grew up poor, and my parents never had a choice in where to send me to school. So my wife, Mariann, and I knew we wanted to find the very best option for our son Luke.”
  • Those words should be
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Greg Toppo

Note: On Tuesday, April 28, from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. ET, the Fordham Institute will host a discussion with Greg Toppo on his new book, The Game Believes in You, from which this essay is adapted. See our event page for more information and to register. All are invited to stay for a small reception following the event.

After decades of ambivalence, suspicion, and sometimes outright hostility, educators are beginning to discover the charms of digital games and simulations, in the process rewriting centuries-old rules of learning, motivation, and success.

Teachers have long used cards, dice, pencil-and-paper games, and board games to teach and reinforce key concepts. But digital technology, and games in particular, go even further. Because games look so little like school, they force us to reconsider our most basic assumptions about how children learn: What is school for and what should students do there? Where should kids get their content and how? How important is it that they like what they’re doing? What is our tolerance for failure and what is our standard for success? Who is in control here?

Even the electronic versions of games have a history dating back two generations. The...

  1. In case you missed it, our own Aaron Churchill entered the lion’s den in Cincinnati on Monday, participating in a League of Women Voters event on charter school accountability. It appears from Enquirer coverage that he was about the only one who thought that charter law reform efforts were a step forward in Ohio. And if I wasn’t sure from that, then this piece from the “News and Stuff” column of CityBeat sealed it. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 4/21/15; CityBeat Cincinnati, 4/21/15)
     
  2. Also on the topic of charter law reform, editors in Cleveland opine today on the raft of bills in the state legislature aimed at doing just that. Citing the CREDO charter quality study from December and calling the charter sector in Ohio a “wretched, weedy mess”, the PD bosses opine favorably on the reform efforts and in favor of more money to ODE to do the job right. Interesting. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 4/22/15)
     
  3. Speaking of opiners, the Enquirer continues adjusting to the “post-5-of-8 landscape” they find themselves in here in Ohio. To wit: a guest commentary that evokes school violence as a likely outcome of the loss of mandatory staff levels for counselors. While
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